And so after what seems like the longest school year ever the summer holidays are finally here. Having been struck down by a horrible infection over the last two weeks I’ve been forced to just sit down a read, so have managed to squeeze in quite a few books which I’m sharing with you today. I have something for everyone from 7 years with Emma Read’s debut, ‘Milton the Mighty,’ all the way up to 100 years with Laura Wood’s delightful, ‘Under A Dancing Star.’ So I digress, I’m sure you’re here for the books not an update about my general health (I’m nearly recovered now in case you’re wondering) so let’s let the books do the talking.
For me a new ‘Murder Most Unladylike’, book is always a highlight of my book calendar so I was thrilled to get my hand on an early copy of, ‘Top Marks For Murder.’ Sadly I was yet again forced to wait until my fellow Detective Society member had read it first as she insisted she would be much quicker, which was entirely true as she devoured it in three hours. After our sojourn to the theatre, Wells and Wong are back to their stomping ground of Deepdean where inevitably they find themselves deeply embroiled in a murder during the school’s fiftieth anniversary weekend, with parents all around there’s no chance of a cover up and the scandal is threatening to close their beloved Deepdean. Horrified at the thought of being separated forever our dynamic duo are on the case but this time Robin has made it as difficult as possible for them (and us the reader) to unravel the truth amongst a plethora of old grudges, family secrets and bitter rivalries. This series has gone from strength to strength gaining quite rightly an army of detective society members who are desperate to read the next adventure and this one is definitely worth the wait. So notebooks at the ready it’s time to discover can you solve this clever and complex mystery, I know I failed miserably yet again!
Despite getting my hands on an early copy of, ‘Under A Dancing Star,’ I had to force myself to wait to read it when I had the luxury of time to savour every page and just lose myself in Bea’s world. Following on from Laura’s triumphant and stunning Young Adult debut, ‘A Sky Painted Gold.‘ she has managed to create another truly divine story that I completely adored. Bea lives a very small existence, suffocated by her family who are desperate for her to marry well so that she can save the crumbling ancestral pile. Her ambitions and desires are squashed, her life is mapped out against her will until one decision to send her away for the summer offers her one last chance of adventure before her fate is sealed. Sent to live with her uncle in Italy, Bea experiences for the first time a place where her opinion is valued, new freedom and an opportunity to mingle with some bohemian artists who are far removed from her stiff upper lip family. When she meets Ben, she finally meets her match in both wit and intellect and sparks fly. When they’re challenged to enjoy a summer romance without falling in love, it changes them both in the most unexpected of ways. Deliciously romantic, sublimely imagined this is a story that truly stole my heart. Inspired by Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ Laura captures the relationship between Bea and Ben so magnificently, emphasising the joy of the funny and frustrating banter that flies between the pair. Aside from this, the reader feels the balmy heat of the long hot days and the beauty of the idyllic surroundings through the rich and elaborate descriptions that she creates. A dreamy and gorgeous read, I was totally enchanted by ‘Under A Dancing Star.’
So regulars to the blog will know I’m a huge fan of Phil Earle’s writing, so when I heard he was teaming up with Andy McNab to write a new children’s adventure I was as excited as Danny is in this book to go on a Wild Out residential trip. That’s where the parallel end as Danny is beset on problems all around, where as I just needed to find some time to sit down and read it. What with having to raise £150 to pay for the trip and oh avoid his big brother who is determined to beat him into a pulp at every opportunity, life is tough. Fortunately by some small miracle and with only a few disaster along the way, Danny succeeds. But our dastardly writers (you know who I’m talking about Andy and Phil) decided to throw another spanner into the works when at the very last minute his brother has to come along too. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, they soon learn the camp leader is about 132 years old and they have to deal with compost loos, not to mention no WiFi. How will Danny every survive the trip and keep his mind and body in one piece. Fast-paced, bonkers and downright hilarious this book is packed with so many comic moments, I for one will never be able to look at stinging nettles in the same way again. Robin captures the carnage and chaos brilliantly in his hilarious illustrations. A rollercoaster of a ride with lots of laughs and nail biting moments, I thoroughly enjoyed, ‘Get Me Out of Here.’
Enid Blyton’s ‘Malory Towers,’ series where the books that made me a reader. As a child growing up I read these books under cover by torchlight desperate to indulge in a midnight feast and play lacrosse, despite having no sporting ability. I felt I’d been dealt a cruel blow by not being allowed to go to boarding school, that is the power of books their ability to transform your hopes and dreams. So for me the chance to return to Malory Towers was filled with a real mixture of dread and excitement. What if it didn’t manage to conjure up this place that was magical to me in the same way? I’m delighted to tell you that this book completely surpassed my expectations. It captures all the joy of the original series but brings something fresh and new in these four short stories with a real mix of interesting characters. I’m not sure Darrell Rivers and co. have ever seen such an intriguing mix of girls and for that I will always be truly grateful. Naturally I have a soft spot for the bookworm Evelyn who is mercilessly teased by some of the girls but manages to show Darrell the magic that lies between the pages of the books. I would love to see more of these stories and I’m hoping the lovely guardians of the Blyton estate will commission some more. All of the Malory Towers series have been reissued with new covers from Pippa Curnick and I think they would make a glorious addition to any child’s beloved book collection.
Milton the false widow spider is more than happy with his existence feasting on ladybird juice and hanging out with his pals big hairy Ralph and spindly daddy-long-legs Audrey until a case of mistaken identity throws his life into chaos. Branded a deadly spider by an internet article sponsored con-incidentally (or maybe not0 by infestation company BugKill, Milton must find a way to expose the truth but the clock is ticking fast. His only hope appears to be Zoe the house-human is suspicious of these rumours but is worried about being branded a spider freak. Can Milton find a way to convince Zoe and her arachnophobic Dad to help save the day? Gently humorous Emma takes us on a journey of discovery to help challenge our spider phobias and fear of creepy-crawlies in this charming and entertaining debut. Milton is the exact type of hero the reader wants to root for with this mixture of fear and bravado and his less than convincing plans. Cleverly introducing children to the concept of fake news and exploring how easy prejudice and panic can set in, this is a brilliant story to ignite important conversations with children. Alex’s hilarious illustrations add an extra element to this story creating an accessible format for young readers embarking on middle grade stories for the first time. Original storytelling and fantastic characterisation make for a really fun debut.
Thank you to Chicken House Books, Hachette, Phil Earle, Puffin and Scholastic for sending me gifted copies of these books in exchange for an honest review. All of these books are available to buy now, except ‘Top Marks for Murder,’ which is released on August 8th. To buy or pre-order click on the links in the title.